By Astghik BedevianArmenia’s opposition has published an audio recording that its views as damaging to the credibility of the ongoing parliamentary probe into the post-election violence.
At a press conference on Thursday Levon Zurabian, a senior member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), played to the reporters the voice of Samvel Nikoyan, the chairman of the ad hoc commission, giving an interview to an undisclosed foreign reporter in which he explicitly speaks about the presence of a sniper near the scene of the post-election riots in downtown Yerevan.
The voice of a female reporter on the tape, in English, asks Nikoyan to list the set of weapons that Armenian police used to quell the opposition demonstrations on the night of March 1. Nikoyan’s answer, verbatim, is as follows: “According to our laws, our police are entitled to use defense shields, truncheons, water cannons, tear gas and firearms.”
Then, according to the audio tape, Nikoyan elaborates on the type of weapons, including, licensed personal guns, automatic weapons and ‘one sniper’.
After informing the reporter about the sniper, Nikoyan continues: “When I try to accuse the police, I say they could have shot at the legs to avoid fatalities.”
Zurabian said HAK representatives might forward the tape to Thomas Hammarberg, the visiting Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, when they met the visiting Strasbourg official later on Thursday. Another copy, he added, would be forward to the fact-finding group of experts currently collecting key facts relating to the March 1 unrest in addition to the main parliamentary probe.
“If the ad hoc commission’s chairman possesses this kind of information and does not disclose it during the work of his commission, it is the best proof that the commission and its probe cannot be regarded as credible,” Zurabian charged.
In later comments, Nikoyan effectively acknowledged the authenticity of the tape as he admitted that the police did have one sniper at their disposal.
“They officially replied to my inquiry – ‘the presence of one sniper’. There was one such sniper.”
To RFE/RL’s question whether the sniper was responsible for any wounded or killed on the night, Nikoyan said: “No, I cannot say at this moment, I cannot say precisely.”